Here’s our pick of one-of-a-kind experiences that will bring you close to nature, each in a very different way.
The weekend beckons. But there are only so many over-the-top brunches and OTT platform binges you can indulge in, right? If you’re craving a breath of fresh air, there’s always a fun way to do it, no matter where you are. Get some inspiration for outdoor getaways from four cities across the country with this guide…
Hit the hills to get a glimpse of thousands of these purple flowers called Neelakurinji (Strobilanthes kunthiana) in bloom. They do this only once every 12 years and it’s a fabulous sight to see the entire hillside awash with their brilliant hue. They’re currently ‘flowering gregariously’ (yes, that’s what it’s called when plants of a particular species bloom at one time) all across the hills of Mandalpatti and Kote Betta in Karnataka’s Kodagu district. The seven-hour drive to Coorg to see these flowers may be worth your while if you make a mini vacay out of it at Madikeri, just 18 kms away. Else, if you have the moolah to shell out for the quicker weekend experience, a local firm rents out choppers that are doing round trips to give enthusiasts an aerial view of this rare phenomenon.
Follow the ancient trade route between India and Tibet in Uttarakhand’s Nelang Valley, located on the Indo-China border at a height of over 11,000 feet above the sea level. Part of the Gangotri National Park in Uttarkashi district, the valley was closed for civilians after the 1962 Sino-Indian border conflict. But even when the government announced that tourists could visit the gorgeous valley from 2015 (it’s called Uttarakhand’s Ladakh), Gartang Gali, the 500-metre-long timber-lined stairway was deemed unsafe and inaccessible. Built by Peshawari Pathans in the traditional style, by painstakingly cutting through rock, Gartang Gali was once used by Tibetan traders who carried items such as salt, jaggery, spices, gold, pashmina wool, etc across. Recently, after almost six decades and a restoration project that cost Rs 64 lakh, the bridge is ready to have agile adventurers step on it once more. Now, you can seek permission to be one of the 10 tourists allowed to visit the bridge at a single time, get an exhilarating view of Nelang Valley, and perhaps spot a rare snow leopard or blue sheep while you’re there!
It’s the Hamptons of Mumbai and everyone who is anyone has a holiday home there. But whether you have your own plush place with a plunge pool, can rent some vacay luxe for the weekend, or are even just headed to a humble homestay in Alibag and the beaches beyond, you now don’t need to rely on the end of the monsoon season to take the catamarans to get to the Mandwa jetty. The good news is that the Ro Ro Ferry runs throughout the rainy season, no matter how high the waves get. You can take your favourite vehicle, fill it with family, pets, and drive on and off this gigantic ferry right through to a villa to make the most of your time here. And while the rustic charm of all the beaches from Varsoli to Kihim to Murud and Kashid and the ancient sea forts and lighthouses nearby is sure to have great appeal, the fact is that this area also has some great interiors stores to browse through, an art gallery, a photography museum, and dining experiences to vie for over the weekend, thanks to the fact that so many of Mumbai’s glam brigade now call it casa.
While every fish-eater in West Bengal worth his or her salt will have already had some Hilsa (called ‘ilish’ in Bangla), you can make the most of the ilish maach season in the Bay of Bengal by booking a Sundarbans cruise to enjoy the ongoing Sundarban Hilsa (Ilish) Festival this weekend. This queen of fish is sourced from local fishermen and prepared and served on the boat cruises in the form of delicacies such as sorse ilish, bhapa ilish, ilish paturi and doi ilish, just to name a few. Of course, getting to see a wild tiger that the Sunderbans are known for would be wonderful too!